Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet #1), by Roshani Chokshi
Publish Date: March 27, 2018
Published by: Disney/Rick Riordan Presents
Genre: MG Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 out of 5 stars)
**I received an egalley of this from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from their latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
I have some mixed feelings about this book, mostly because my critical and personal views of it are somewhat different. Critically, I can look at this book and say that, yes it is a decent middle grade novel that is fun, adventurous, full of laughter and great mythology. Personally, though, I just don’t think it was for me. This might be because I thought I was in the mood to read it when I really wasn’t, or it could be because I was inadvertently comparing it to the Percy Jackson series the whole time (no matter how much I tried not to).
So here we go: Like I said, the story is fun and full of adventure. It swoops right into the action, barely even giving pause for the reader to orient themselves. At times I felt like the characters were getting lost in the sheer amount of mythology that was being thrown into the story as well as the constant changes in scenery. On the one hand, this made for a quick-paced plot that kept the reader easily engaged, but on the other it moved so quickly at times that sometimes I lost track of what was going on. There were so many little things going on that the overall goal felt forgotten sometimes as well. I really enjoyed the mythology, though, and thought it was well-incorporated into the story and the world-building, but like I said before, there were a lot of instances and movements of the plot that reminded me of Percy Jackson (not so much what the mythology was, but rather how and where it was taking place. The whole Kingdom of Death thing was very reminiscent of going into Hades…).
I thought the characters were interesting and liked that they showed some depth over the course of the novel, but I think I would have liked to see even more. It felt like at times that they got a little lost in all the mythology and action that was happening around and to them, and their personalities seemed to wane in those moments to just their barest of personality traits. I really enjoyed the moments that did crop up dealing with Aru and her relationships with her mother and with Mimi, as those moments showed a lot of character growth and depth that really made the characters feel more real and human to me.
As I said before, I have mixed feelings about this book. I can see a lot of middle graders reading and enjoying it, especially if they liked Percy Jackson and want something similar but with a different culture. I just felt like there was so much going on that I lost sight of the characters sometimes. I also think that maybe I just was not fully in the mood for it, which is unfortunate because I had been so looking forward to reading this.